Braves poised to make deep playoff run in 2019 season

     After losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2018 National League Divisional Series, Alex Anthopoulous, the general manager of the Braves, set out to improve his ballclub in the offseason. In November of 2018, Anthopoulous signed Josh Donaldson, the former 2015 AL MVP, to a record breaking 23-million-dollar contract for one year. Donaldson was reunited with Anthopoulous after spending the early parts of their careers together in Toronto.

     Just days after the Donaldson signing, the Braves announced that they had signed former Brave and fan-favorite Brian McCann to a one-year deal. McCann, having played with the Braves from 2005-2013, felt drawn back to the Braves organization due to the familiarity with the town and fanbase.

     From December to Opening Day, the Braves, along with numerous other MLB franchises, hesitated to make any other notable signings or trades. Doubt and fear began to creep into the Braves fanbase, and after being swept in the first series by the division favorite Philadelphia Phillies, many voiced their frustrations with the lack of perceived improvement in the offseason on social media.

     However, throughout the first half of the season the Braves outperformed expectations. A mid-season signing of former Cy-Young Winner, Dallas Keuchel, helped stabilize both the Braves pitching staff and the anxiety of fans. The Braves headed into the All-Star break leading the NL East with a record of 54-37.

     The Braves continued their winning ways in the second half of the season, winning 18 out of 27 games in the month of August. The Braves were propelled by deadline moves to acquire relief pitchers Chris Martin, Mark Melancon, and Shane Greene. Before the All-Star break, the Braves closer had been Luke Jackson, who struggled to find his footing in the closing role. He only saved 14 out of 20 opportunities. Anthopoulous made it his priority to seek bullpen help near the trade deadline and helped solidify what was at times a rocky relief pitching staff.

      Behind the bats of Josh Donaldson and Ronald Acuña Jr., the Braves offense surged to new heights in the 2019 season. The Braves eclipsed their franchise record for most home runs in a season with over 10 games to play in the season. Ronald Acuña Jr., 2018 NL Rookie of the Year, continued his historic tear in the MLB, hitting over 30 home runs sand stealing over 30 bases

     If the Braves are to advance to the National League Championship Series, they will likely face the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I think the Dodgers would have swept [the Braves] back in the beginning of the season, but the Braves look significantly better,” said Sophomore Reilly O’Neill.

     Others across Westminster repeated O’Neill’s assertion, but some have less confidence in their home-town team. “The Dodgers will beat the Braves in the playoffs,” said Senior Will Benton. Whether the Braves beat the Dodgers or not, fans are certainly hopeful.